Panel: Creativity as a Social Ontology
Michael Joyce’s hypertext fiction afternoon, a story was first publicly presented in 1987, and is generally known as the “granddaddy” of electronic literature (Coover, 1992). It has been anthologised by Norton, is substantially analysed and discussed in dozens of academic treatises and is taught or at least mentioned in almost every course taught on electronic literature. But afternoon is not the first work of electronic literature. Why did this particular work become the progenitor of a community of writers, a common reference point for scholars and students for the next 25 years? There were alternative possibilities. (The case has already been made that interactive fiction is equally a form of electronic literature – but IF is a distinct genre with a distinct community.) Why didn’t bp Nichols’ work “First Screening: Computer Poems” (1984) start a movement? Why are there no cricital discussions of Judy Malloy’s database narrative “Uncle Roger”, published on the WELL in 1986/97? This brief paper will question the role of the mythical progenitor in the creation of a creative communtiy. Why do we tend to imagine a father or “granddaddy” of a field? Are certain kinds of work more likely to be adopted as progenitor of a field, or does the choice of progenitor depend more on social networks, modes of distribution or even chance? Would electronic literature have been different today if Nichols or Malloy had been crowned as the grandparent of the field?
- Jill Walker Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen, Norway. Her research investigates how people tell stories online. She has published a book on Blogging (Polity Press, 2008), co-edited an anthology about World of Warcraft, and has published over 20 papers on social media, electronic literature and creative practices.
Full text (PDF) p. 2023-2029